Affordable Care Act premiums will go up about 18 percent next year in Nebraska, marking the second year of double-digit increases since the federal health care program was launched.

That’s among the biggest rate hikes in the nation approved so far by state regulators.

Of the two companies providing insurance again on the federal marketplace this year, Blue Cross Blue Shield, the largest provider, is increasing its rates nearly 15 percent and Coventry CHE nearly 22 percent, according to figures released by the Nebraska Insurance Department. Two other companies have joined the marketplace this year, and their rates appear to be slightly lower.

That comes on the heels of an 11 percent average increase this year in the individual marketplace, where people buy their own insurance because they don’t get it through their job or a government program.

Nebraska’s insurance commissioner is among 36 nationwide with the power to reject rate hikes or negotiate them, and Bruce Ramge said his department and a consultant reviewed the companies’ rate requests to make sure they were justified before adjusting them up and down.

“The Department of Insurance could reject a filing if the rates were not actuarially sound,” he said. “In other words, if the claims history and projected costs support the rates, we would not have a basis for denial.”

Blue Cross has said its losses on individual plans last year were “some of the highest we have seen in years.”

One 2013 study predicted Nebraskans would see the eighth biggest premium hikes in the nation, at 74 percent, likely because insurance was cheaper here than in more heavily regulated states. The Manhattan Institute study predicted the average increase nationally would be 41 percent.

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